San Francisco Armory

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San Francisco Armory
1800 Mission Street, San Francisco, 94103
A view of the San Francisco Armory at the corner of Mission and 14th Street
A view of the San Francisco Armory at the corner of Mission Street and 14th Streets
San Francisco Armory is located in San Francisco County
San Francisco Armory
San Francisco Armory
San Francisco Armory is located in California
San Francisco Armory
San Francisco Armory
San Francisco Armory is located in the US
San Francisco Armory
San Francisco Armory
Coordinates 37°46′04″N 122°25′14″W / 37.767778°N 122.420556°W / 37.767778; -122.420556
Type Armory, Arsenal
Site information
Owner Armory Studios
Condition Refurbished (2007)[1][2]
Site history
Built 1912–1914
In use 1914–1976
Materials Concrete, brick facade

Bloody Thursday

San Francisco Armory
Area 2.2 acres (0.89 ha)
Built 1913
Architectural style Moorish Revival
NRHP Reference # 78000758[3]
SFDL # 108
Significant dates
Added to NRHP November 14, 1978
Designated SFDL 1980[4]
Garrison information
Garrison United States National Guard

The San Francisco Armory, also known as the San Francisco National Guard Armory and Arsenal or simply The Armory, is a historic building in the Mission District of San Francisco, California.

National Guard Armory[edit]

The building was constructed as an armory and arsenal for the United States National Guard in 1912–1914 and designed with a castle-like appearance in a Moorish Revival style. The Armory was built on part of the site of Woodward's Gardens (1866–1891), a zoo, aquarium, art museum, and amusement park which covered two city blocks, bounded by Mission, Valencia, 13th, and 15th Streets.[5][6] The structure was built as a replacement for the old San Francisco Armory in the Western Addition, which had been destroyed by the 1906 earthquake.[7] In addition to its role as an armory and arsenal, during the 1920s, it served as a venue for sporting events, such as prizefights.[8]

The Armory served as a stronghold and rallying point for the National Guard in their suppression of the 1934 San Francisco General Strike (an event known as "Bloody Thursday").[9][10] The building closed as an armory in 1976, when the National Guard moved its facilities to Fort Funston.[7]

Sports venue[edit]

Interior of the Drill Court showing boxing ring, ca. 1928.

From the 1920s through the 1940s, the Mission Armory served as San Francisco's primary sports venue, eventually earning the nickname "the Madison Square Garden of the West."[11] For almost three decades, at least two prizefights were held in the Drill Court each week.

One very notable fight included a light heavyweight title fight between Young Jim Corbett III and Jackie Fields. Other notable fights that took place in the Armory included matches between Mike Teague and Jack Thompson (both were welterweight champions); and Young Jim Corbett (the son of "Gentleman Jim" Corbett) and Pete Myers in 1929.[12]


After 1976, the building was largely unused for the next 30 years, though in 1978 the building was registered as a Class 2 historical landmark in the National Register of Historic Places. Several spaceship-interior scenes in the Star Wars movie The Empire Strikes Back' were filmed there,[13] and the San Francisco Opera used the large inner court of The Armory for set construction and rehearsals until the mid-1990s.[14]

By this time, The Armory was in a heavy state of disrepair.[15][16] Various uses of the building were proposed from 1996 to 2006, including self storage units,[14] a rehabilitation clinic, a gym with a rock wall, a dot-com office park,[8] a telecommunications switching center,[17] luxury housing,[18] and low-income housing.

Many of these proposals were marked by acrimonious debates between various community interests. Concerns over gentrification, social and environmental impact or the unsuitability of the structure for various uses resulted in none of the various plans for the structure reaching fruition.[10][17][18][19] The building eventually came to be described, variously, as "a herd of white elephants",[15] "cursed",[7] and "not a friendly building".[19] The stairs in the main entrance of the armory also became a well-known skateboarding location referred to as "3-Up 3-Down".[20][edit]

The leather pride flag waving on the Armory building in 2008.

In late 2006, The Armory was purchased for $14.5 million by, a San Francisco-based internet pornography producer specializing in BDSM pornography.[21][22] As of 2007, the company is using the building as a studio for production of content for their websites.[23] Peter Acworth, the company's owner, has stated that the structure suits the needs of the company very well without need for significant structural modifications to the building, and that the company would begin repairs to the decaying structure.[22] It was also announced that planned at some point in the future to rent out studio space for film production of all kinds within The Armory.[10][19][21][24]

The sale was not announced until January 2007 as a result of a non-disclosure agreement with the previous owner.[24] The sale drew a mixed response from the San Francisco community. Many people welcomed this use of The Armory as a way of revitalizing the structure and bringing back business to the area without altering the appearance of the historic building, as well as being in keeping with San Francisco's tradition of accommodating sexual minorities.[25] Others were disturbed that a pornography studio would be located in the middle of a residential neighborhood near schools, or were opposed to the abandonment of plans for low-income housing at the site, as well as the lack of community input into this use of The Armory.[25][26][27]

A group known as the Mission Armory Community Collective soon formed in opposition to's use of The Armory; the group held a public protest in front of The Armory in early February 2007.[22][23][27] San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom also expressed concern over the purchase, and scheduled a special meeting of the San Francisco Planning Commission in March 2007 to review the company's use of the building.[22] This public meeting was well-attended by both supporters and detractors of the purchase. The Planning Commission for its part ruled that was not in violation of any law or zoning requirement.[24][26]

Although has stated that its activities would be invisible to the surrounding neighborhood, La Casa de las Madres, a neighboring women's shelter, announced in late March 2007 that they would be leaving the location. The shelter had planned on moving from that location in 2009 when their lease expired, but stated that they would be leaving the location because of the media scrutiny of's presence.[28]

In late 2007, Acworth approached the San Francisco Planning Commission with the idea of converting part of the Armory space into webcam-lined condominia. However, Acworth also described the plans as "extremely hypothetical" and stated that, "There is no firm plan for using the Armory for anything but a conventional film studio for now."[29][30]

In May and December, 2008, the San Francisco Armory hosted Mission Bazaar, an all-ages arts fair featuring local artists and craftspeople selling their work, as well as performances. It was the first public event held in the Armory since the 1970s.[31][32]

Since then, the building has housed public events and sports competitions.[33] It is open for public tours and BDSM-related workshops.[34]

In January 2017, announced that it would cease the use of the Armory for film production.[35]

Armory Events[edit]

In 2011, Armory Events started work on the Drill Court, the most exciting multi-purpose event space in San Francisco. The venue is 40,000 square feet with an occupancy of 4,000 people and an 80 feet high dome ceiling. This one of a kind space houses the largest supergrid west of the Mississippi and 33,500 square feet of hardwood maple floating floor. It features Wi-Fi throughout, acoustical treatment on walls and ceiling, freight door access, beverage service and Box Office availability. Other available facilities are catering prep and set up facilities, breakout rooms, dressing rooms and coat check.

Hosting corporate events, concerts, sporting events and markets; this space is a blank canvas. Past events have included, Building Bridges Homeless Event, Roller Derby, the Chemical Brothers and creating a “Alice in Wonderland” space for a private event. Armory Events has worked with corporate event planners, design agencies, entertainment companies, and developed in-house productions. They are a full service professional events team, with an unlimited range of set-up options, staging, trussing, sound system, a full service bar and many years of event production experience.

Visible groundwater in sub-basement[edit]

Guides employed by frequently repeat the mostly inaccurate but widely held belief[36] that a remnant portion of Mission Creek flows through the building's sub-basement.

The water in the sub-basement is groundwater which would have percolated through the soils into nearby Mission Creek during the time it existed as an open waterway. Any basement or excavation dug just as deep in the neighborhood would fill with water to a typical depth of many feet, the exact depth depending on season and rainfall factors. Pumps constantly running within the building prevent the groundwater from pooling in the sub-basement. According to guides, groundwater completely filled the sub-basement at the time their company purchased the building. Also, as a commitment to BDSM, proclaims that their basement is a sub.[37]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "SF Armory Window Restoration Project In Full Swing", BehindKink (website), November 16, 2007.
  2. ^ "As of Monday, Kink Can Officially Call its Castle 'Home'", BehindKink (website), December 18, 2007.
  3. ^ National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  4. ^ "City of San Francisco Designated Landmarks". City of San Francisco. Retrieved 2012-10-21. 
  5. ^ " buys SF Armory", Bay City News, January 9, 2007.
  6. ^ "Then: Old Armory; Now: Porn Studio by Jonathan Farrell, Mission Dispatch, February 15, 2007.
  7. ^ a b c "Cursed Armory Has Hexed Developers for Over Twenty Years" by Carol Lloyd,, October 3, 2000.
  8. ^ a b "S.F. Armory to be reborn as high-tech office space" by Emily Gurnon, San Francisco Chronicle, February 24, 2000
  9. ^ "3 Killed, 31 Shot in Widespread Rioting", San Francisco Daily News, July 5, 1934. (Archived at the Virtual Museum of San Francisco)
  10. ^ a b c "Welcome to S.F.",, 2007.
  11. ^ "SF Armory – History",, 2007.
  12. ^ “Fresno Boxer too Much for Potrero Pete,” and “Corbett Battles Myers at Armory,” San Francisco Chronicle (April 29, 1929)
  13. ^ "Studio Rentals". 
  14. ^ a b "Armory sold for $1.25 million" by Gerald D. Adams, San Francisco Examiner, July 24, 1996.
  15. ^ a b "Redevelopment ponders fate of historic armory" by Gerald D. Adams, San Francisco Examiner, September 13, 1995.
  16. ^ "Waiting for a Miracle in the Mission" by Maitland Zane, San Francisco Chronicle, January 28, 1996.
  17. ^ a b "Switch in Proposal For S.F. Armory" by Dan Levy, San Francisco Chronicle, September 15, 2000.
  18. ^ a b "Mission Armory plan sees condo complex" by Dan Levy, San Francisco Chronicle, April 10, 2004.
  19. ^ a b c "A Neighbor Moves in With Ropes and Shackles, and Some Are Not So Pleased" by Jesse Mckinley, The New York Times, February 12, 2007.
  20. ^ "Armory". 2014. 
  21. ^ a b "Ex-armory turns into porn site" by Steve Rubenstein, San Francisco Chronicle, January 13, 2007
  22. ^ a b c d "A Disciplined Business" by Jon Mooallem, The New York Times, April 29, 2007.
  23. ^ a b "Porn studio says armory filming has begun" by Steve Rubenstein, San Francisco Chronicle, February 9, 2007.
  24. ^ a b c "Planning Commission hears case" by Liz Highleyman, Bay Area Reporter, March 15, 2007.
  25. ^ a b "San Francisco Planning Commission - Special Public Hearing", SFGTV, March 8, 2007. (link to streaming Windows Media Video and downloadable MP3 audio)
  26. ^ a b No welcome mat for adult film studio" by Marisa Lagos, San Francisco Chronicle, January 26, 2007
  27. ^ a b "Kink hearing: The pornographer's purchase of the Armory faces more roadblocks" by Deborah Giattina, San Francisco Bay Guardian, March 7, 2007.
  28. ^ "Service organization flees from kinky Mission neighbor" by Sarah Duxbury, San Francisco Business Times, March 23, 2007.
  29. ^ "Porn prince wants to build kinky condos in Armory" by Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross, San Francisco Chronicle, December 16, 2007.
  30. ^ "SF Armory Could Become 'Kinky Condos'", NBC11, December 17, 2007.
  31. ^ "Mission Bazaar, a Unique Craft & Performance Expo at The Armory" Laughing Squid, May 16, 2008.
  32. ^ "Mission Bazaar Returns To San Francisco’s Historic Armory" "Laughing Squid", December 1, 2008.
  33. ^ "Events". 
  34. ^ Levin, Sam (25 January 2017). "'End of an era': porn actors lament the loss of legendary San Francisco Armory". The Guardian. 
  35. ^ " To Stop Filming In Its Controversial Porn Dungeon". Vocativ. 2017-01-17. Retrieved 2017-01-21. 
  36. ^ "Mission Creek Runs Through the Armory, Now" by Lydia Chávez, Mission Local, February 16, 2011.
  37. ^ "The SF Armory’s ('s) 'Mission Creek' Claim" by Joel Pomerantz, Thinkwalks, January 29, 2013.

External links[edit]